Struggling schools should be branded with company logos to improve their public image, the Specialist Schools Trust has recommended.
Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the body leading the Government's drive to increase specialist numbers, is encouraging businesses to brand schools after donating cash.
He said they should follow the example of one high-street bank, which ensures all the schools it funds have a sign saying "an HSBC centre of excellence".
The company is allowed to put its logo once on the school sign and once in the brochure, according to rules agreed with the Department for Education and Skills.
He said: "It is nothing to do with commercial advantage or getting advertising: it's totally the other way around. Usually a sponsor wants to remain anonymous. They don't want their reputation tied to a school that has a long way to go. But it makes struggling schools feel good to have a nationally-known company say, we are coming to help.
"This is not about changing the name or anything. It's not as if pupils will be running around with it on their uniform, like Arsenal being supported by a telephone company."
But Sir Cyril said that it would be inappropriate for some companies, such as junk food restaurants, to have their logos on school signs.
The National Union of Teachers estimates that companies spend pound;300 million a year on advertising targeted at schools.
Steve Sinnott, the union's general secretary, said: "Businesses provide a great deal of important support for schools but many major companies do not have good reputations, for example Enron. Children should be in an advertising-free environment."
Enron, the energy company, which collapsed after a massive fraud was revealed, is one of the businesses which has been disgraced since it sponsored specialist schools. Jarvis, one of the firms implicated in the Potters Bar rail crash has also sponsored schools.